Academic journal article College Student Journal

Victimization and Attempted Suicide among College Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Victimization and Attempted Suicide among College Students

Article excerpt

This research focused on the relationship of memories of childhood physical and sexual abuse, rape and attempted suicide. Two samples (1992, n = 958 and 1998, n = 1520) of college undergraduates were compared by use of similar questionnaires. Both childhood physical and sexual abuse significantly correlate with attempted suicide in both study years. Similarly, rape (victim and perpetrator) also associates with suicide attempts. These findings of child abuse and later suicide attempts are consistent with some past research efforts. The finding of an association between rape and attempted suicide has been little studied and merits further investigation.

One of the more traumatic events of early childhood is the experience of being sexually and/or physically abused. While there are immediate consequences to such victimization, the long range effects of these experiences often lead the individual to diverse adjustment strategies. The literature reports a common tendency of abuse victims to develop immediate traumatic stress reactions such as depression and anxiety along with disturbances in cognitive processing and social relatedness (Briere and Runtz, 1993). Over time, the experience of early childhood trauma may correlate with lasting emotional problems and a variety of dysfunctional behaviors (Boudewyn and Liem, 1995). These problematic behaviors can be manifested by the victim endangering both self and others (Bryant and Range, 1995). Significant among these high-risk activities is the ultimate self-destructive act of suicide (Peters and Range, 1995).

A persistent theme of research on college students focuses on the traumas that lead to victimization and self destructive behavior (Bryant and Range, 1995). There is a vast literature on suicide among college students. Most of the studies describe the epidemiology of suicide (Schwartz, 1990; and Silverman, 1993). In addition to studying the incidence and distribution of suicide, psychologists place their emphasis upon cognitions (Briere and Runtz, 1993) and related emotional states (Yama et al., 1995). Social research has found suicide connected with disturbed social relationships (Conte and Schuerman, 1987).

Behaviors that either precede or are subsequent to attempted suicide have been largely neglected in the literature (Mrazek and Mrazek, 1987; Westefeld et al., 1990). Researchers tend to focus on the emotional and interactional correlates of attempted suicide (Downs and Miller, 1998). Beitchman, et al., (1992a) suggest that the association between childhood physical abuse and suicidality is not known and needs further research. Among college students, Duane, et al. (1997) report no association between a series of emotional and interactional variables and memories of childhood sexual abuse. On the other hand, these researchers found consistently significant relationships between measures of antisocial behavior and memories of sexual abuse during childhood. Therefore, the present research focuses on the behavioral correlates of attempted suicide.

Research evidence supports the notion that coercion of others is associated with earlier traumatic memories (Kendall-Tackett et al., 1993). Among college students, Duane et al. (1997), demonstrate that memories of childhood rape and oral sex are significantly correlated with forced oral and genital intercourse in young adulthood. Moreover, these experiences are subsequently associated with a range of serious delinquencies (e.g., car theft, breaking and entering and arson).

Relatedly, those who are victims are more likely to victimize others (Siegel and Senna, 2000, pp. 64-70). Perpetration and victimization have usually been researched independently (Malik et al., 1997), These authors conclude that being the victim of violence is associated with victimization and perpetration in other contexts. Bridgeland et al. (1995) report that the students who have engaged in promiscuous behavior are more likely to have been sexually victimized. …

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